MO4 Update!

n56892

Oh, by the way, I made it into Mossflower Odyssey IV! I’m not going to admit who I am here until the end, or unless I’m voted out, whichever comes first.

We just finished Round 2 last night. One of the 10 contestants has passed and we have today and tomorrow to vote on the next death.

I have no idea which of my friends I’m going to vote for, but if I don’t, I’ll risk a glare of disapproval from a matey from last contest who I “could have saved” if I’d voted.

So, yes, I will vote, but with much tears and anguish.

If you want to jump in and read the contest, hop over to the Redwall Survivor forums. Click on ‘The Story,’ read the Prologues first, then in Round 1 start at the bottom with “Letters From a Thief” by Adeen Pinebarrow and work your way up from there. Always go from bottom to top to have the story make sense. 😛

And if you read, let me know what you think of our collaborative story. I’ll be sure to pass on comments to the cast. We love commentary!

 

Creation of a Redwall Survivor Application

I’ve been meaning to put this together for a while, but, well, life, you know.

As of this moment, we’re in the final hours of voting for Mossflower Odyssey IV: The Beasts In The Crater. Over the last couple weeks, everyone has been reading and reviewing the top 30 applications sent in and voting on their favorite of each category. Ten categories, with 3 apps apiece (except that two categories only had two apps, so technically, it’s top 28….) all judged and weighed and debated on by the audience.

We’ll know the official cast for MO4 soon, then the story will really begin!

I wrote three apps for MO4, though much to my surprises, only one of my apps got in. Since I’ve been somewhat disappointed, I thought I’d share my favorite app and also share the process I used to create it. Every author has their own system and way of doing this.

This is simply mine.

Bear in mind that this app did not make the Top 30 cut, but I think I worked the hardest on it.

I started out by using How To Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t SUCK, a free course offered by Holly Lisle.  Since in her flash fiction course, she’s walking you through writing 500 word flash fiction, I figured that’d be just perfect for coming up with a 750 word application. I brainstormed for a while, going through the worksheets, but really struggled with the ideas.

Eventually, I had two of the concept sentences kind of merge in my mind. They were:

  1. A usurped horde leader is imprisoned and about to be executed.
  2. An exhausted refugee struggles to find shelter from an oncoming storm.

With those powers combined, I came up with: A usurped horde leader struggles to find shelter from an oncoming storm.

Next, I switched gears, because I wanted to find out more about this horde leader, specifically species, since this is set in the Redwall universe of animals, after all.

So out came the notebook and I started brainstorming.

image1

I wrote Horde Leader, drew a line, then wrote Species. From there, I drew lines to every vermin species that came to mind, and added more lines for reasons why or why not. The last line I drew, going down, was Bird Species. Something about that peaked my interested. Perhaps because the first Redwall book I ever read, Mattimeo, featured a bird horde leader. I went online and did a search for “birds in Great Britain”, then narrowed it down to “birds of prey”.

When I saw the first picture of a male Hen Harrier, I fell in love. I switched to a red pen (as seen above), and continued on brainstorming for a bit longer, toying with names and background. While I did this, I also pulled up pictures from the internet and put them into Scrivener.

2017-07-09

Scrivener itself was a bit of an experiment, since the program was new to me, but it proved very useful to organizing information on my characters. I was able to pull up a bunch of images and even download a PDF file on Hen Harriers from Wikipedia.

2017-07-09 (5)

With my background worked out, I was able to start writing my first draft for Sarek.

2017-07-09 (1)

My first draft finished with 1069 words. By the way, I love Scrivener’s on-screen word counter, which is nearly visible at the bottom center of the picture above.

Next I printed it out and used an abbreviated How to Revise Your Novel (also by Holly Lisle) setup to go through my draft and polish it up. I took pages of notes…

image2

And took a red pen to a printout of the draft. One of my two-year-old twins tried to help with a black one.

image3

Then typed it all back into Scrivener, with a few more tweaks here and there to fix rogue spellings and get the final word count below 750.

With my word count at 748, I then fixed the formatting and sent it off. With one app done, I then started the brainstorming process all over again and came up with two more apps to send off.

Unfortunately, Sarek didn’t make the cut for “A Beast Driven by Revenge,” but I’ll include the app below for anyone interested in reading the final product.

Continue reading

A Reunion Party

Yesterday was a bit of an odd day for me. It was just the kids and me. My washer and dryer ran constantly, washing blankets and towels. The travel crib, air mattress, tent, and sleeping pads were all put away. I think I retrieved all the half-drunk sodas and water bottles that accidentally got left hither and yon. I still need to vacuum, mop, and give the bathroom a cleaning.

Even with three kids running around, the house feels strangely empty and quiet.

Having 7 people stay with you will do that.

Three of those people were complete strangers a little over a year ago.

Over the last week and a half, the moderator and 5 of the 10 cast members from Mossflower Odyssey 3: The Lost Treasure of Captain Blade were at my house. Though I knew 3 of them personally before the contest, the moderator and 2 members were new friends met during the course of the contest.  Since the contest ended last year, we’ve kept in touch through Skype calling, helping with other writing projects, sharing art, and just chatting over Skype. I’d made general invitations to the crew, telling them to come visit me in Montana and I’d take them through Yellowstone National Park.

I didn’t believe we’d actually end up doing that…

But on August 9th, I picked up 3 guys at the airport who I struggled to call by their real names, since the character names of Robert, Airan, and Tooley rolled off my tongue so much easier. A few days later, the writers for Chak and Scully pulled in my driveway with their kids. The writer for Crue swung by several times for games and dinners.

We went on a hike, played lots of games, had Cooking With Tooley LIVE, traded art (well, Chak, Rob, Airan, and Tooley did), and had our epic journey through Yellowstone.

It was kinda funny, because a year ago, Chak, Scully, Crue, and I (along with one other who’d applied to the contest, but hadn’t made it in) got together. We had a root beer tasting party and hung out, doing a Skype call with others in the cast for fun. And someone mentioned how they wished they could be there with us.

Funny that they actually were, a year later.

I’m feeling nostalgic and a bit lonely for the good times. I spent some of my downtime yesterday reading over our story and the critiques and various conversations that happened on the forums. I never knew last summer, when I threw together an application for MO3, that I would end up making new friends that would travel across the country to all hang out together.

You know, it’s been a hard summer for me. I’ve been working hard on my revision projects and taking care of the kids, while my husband’s barely been home because of his work. All our vacation plans ended up canceled.

I’m a bit of an introvert by nature, but circumstances over the last few months have given me more introversion than even I can handle.

I don’t think I realized just how lonely I’ve been. Having the insanity of all the people in my house, the late nights, and the break in the routine was exactly what I needed.

So to any of the crew of MO3 that read this, thanks for making the effort to come out here. Thanks for the laughs, and the fun, and for letting me drag you around the Rockies. You really made my summer.

NaNoWriMo Halftime Report

If you’ve visited my site any time in the last 15 days, you may have noticed a new word count tracker over there on the right sidebar. That’s my official word count for NaNoWriMo 2015 and I’m pleased to say it has been steadily growing.

NaNohalfway

At the start of the month, I set a goal of writing an average of 2000 words a day in order to give myself that much needed buffer that always seems to come in handy during some point in the month. So far, I am 5 days ahead of schedule, so the goal of a buffer is definitely complete. I have written every day, though Day 12 was only about 250 words because of an almost crippling headache, but I still managed a little something even in the midst of that.

For the first time in 9 years, I’m also not in danger of running out of plot. Currently, I have used 18 of my plot cards and have 24 remaining. I’m averaging about 1800 words per card, which makes it possible that the final draft for Noontide Green will be 75,000 words, which would make it my longest rough draft since the original draft of Sentinels of Mysera (which I think was a smidgen over 100,000 words). Most of my NaNo drafts tend to hit right around the 50,000 word mark (except for The Island Wars, which I haven’t finished…), so I’m pretty pleased with this month’s progress.

The best part is that I’ve reached the part of the story that I’m really excited to write. The best scenes are still to come, so I have a lot to look forward to over the rest of the month.

The downside to being so excited to work on my NaNo is that I still have an epilogue to write to finish off Vera Silvertooth’s story in Redwall Survivor. I’m having a hard time pulling my mind out of Noontide Green long enough to make any progress in that department. I may need to take a day or two off from NaNo to get that done, which is another good reason I have a buffer to my word count.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? How’s it going? Are you enjoying your story or is it fighting you every step of the way? Let me know in the comments.

The Conclusion of Mossflower Odyssey III

The Redwall Survivor competition has concluded, for the most part. A handful of final posts and epilogues need to go up, but the voting is over. The winner has been announced. For those of you who may have been following the story, I’m going to reveal my character.

I was the amulet-obsessed, “not-a-pirate”, pyromaniac cook named…

5flunn

Image created by Airan

Vera was my only application that I entered into Redwall Survivor and I didn’t put as much effort into it as I should have. I wrote my application for her in a day, let it sit until it was almost time for us to leave for our Denver vacation, then scrambled to revise and send it out. Vera’s app was not very well received and I honestly didn’t think I’d get in.

When I did, I didn’t think I’d last long. Vera was very disliked by the audience at first. Plus I came into the first round a bit late, since I was still on vacation during the first part. I know my absence made my fellow cast members nervous during that first round.

When the first round passed and I squeaked by alive, I was completely shocked. I took the critiques I’d gotten from my app and first few posts and did my best to apply them to the character. One of the biggest mistakes I made with Vera is that I didn’t do a single bit of character building beyond the application. I had no reason for her to be stealing an amulet. She had no background and very little personality.

Vera_Avatar

Avatar by Vizon… wait for it…

As the weeks and months past, I delved into the character more and more. I’d originally intended Vera to be a bit more crazy and evil than she turned out. But I like the way she ended up in the end.

It was a huge shock to actually make it to the top three. I had a few weeks along the way where I was certain I would be next to go, but my vixen carried me through to the end.

To the rest of the cast, thanks for the ride! It was fun to get to know Chak, Scully, and Crue (who I know in real life) better. Plink, it was good have an old face from the glory days of the ROC and to do a form of role playing again with you, and thank you so much for writing Hylan’s song for me! Tooley, man, you were probably the most helpful out of everyone. Thanks for the critiques, brainstorming, and just the fun times. I’ve never laughed so hard listening to someone cook before. Who knew banana bread at 3 am could be so funny! 🙂 Robert, Ciera, Fildering, and Vasily, it was an honor to write and interact with your characters. Thanks for the fun and the memories! And last, but certainly not least, Airan. You were a fantastic moderator. Thanks for creating the fun plot line involving Atlas and Captain Blade. I hope I’ll get to participate in a future contest with you.

To Matra, Kingsdotr, and all the others who critiqued the posts at some point or the other, thank you for taking the time to read the story and offer your thoughts. We of the cast lived for those days when we saw comments and reviews.

Oh, and Vizon, thanks for all the artwork! If you want to see what Vizon drew during the competition, check out her thread on the forums.

To all the readers, thank you for reading and voting. I hope you enjoyed the story!

The Value of Feedback

I know I keep mentioning Redwall Survivor, but I’ve learned so much over the last couple months in this writing game!

Things are getting tighter. We’re in Round 5 now, and six contestants remain. Four of the original ten have been voted away. Three more rounds of voting left to go before we have it down to the final three.

Let me give you a breakdown of what we go through each round. In a sense, it usually starts around midnight (10 p.m. for me!) on the day the voting closes. We all cluster onto our Skype chat and await the results. Airan (our moderator) lets us know when the results are available and we scurry to the forum for the “Round X Voting Results”. Sighs of relief and tears of loss are shed and then back in the chat we all begin to hash out what’s going to happen in the coming round.

We’ve had a very rough outline we’ve been following this whole time and a common goal we’re aiming at, but each writer is bringing their own character and their own ideas to each round. Sometimes making all those ideas mesh into one unit is very tricky and after the vote each round, plans have to be rearranged, because Character A and B had planned to do such and such in this round, but then Character B was voted off and will now die in the story so what they’d planned could no long be done. One round in particular hit me hard that way, in that the character I had planned on interacting with was the one voted away.

So we sit and begin figuring out what will have to change, how we can fix the hole left by the departing cast member, and what our individual goals are for our characters. Often, Airan has reasons that the voters have sent for why they decided to vote a cast member out and he will share those with us. This helps us improve our writing and storytelling, since these comments can often give us specific areas to work on.

After getting a rough plot for the round and a rough posting order based on what each of us wants to do, we each retreat to our own space and begin working out our posts. We have a “Pre-Post” board hidden on the forum where we post the early drafts of our stories. Some members like to post outlines here so everyone else can get an idea of what’s going on in their story, some just post a rough story. Some get their story up in the eleventh hour. 😛 We critique and check SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar) on each others post (sometimes rearranging the posting order last minute) and then start posting the finished stories for all the readers. The round closes and we all sit back for two days of voting before we start the crazy cycle over again.

Here’s where I’m getting to the point of this. Last Wednesday night, we learned the fate of one of our beloved cast. We hashed a few things out in those wee morning hours, and Thursday I started on my post and got a rough draft up in “Pre-Post.” Unfortunately, I hated what I’d written. As I skimmed through other rough drafts and outlines, it seemed like everyone else had such epic ideas and exciting things happening in their posts. Mine was pretty lame in comparison. I said something in the chat about my post and one cast member said he’d read it over and send me his thoughts. A bit later he offered to do a Skype call with me and together we discussed my post and what I liked and what he liked and he gave me some of his thoughts. I made notes and then tackled the post again.

At the same time as I was struggling with my post, another cast member was having a few issues of her own. I read over her post and sent her my thoughts, giving her a couple of my own ideas on directions she could take if they appealed to her. Her post is mostly complete now and sounds so much better than it did in the rough draft stage.

As for myself, I had a more complete draft up by Monday and I had two different members of the Survivor cast comment on the final scene in my post. Both felt the scene was a little awkward and forced, so with a little help, I rehashed that scene and rewrote it.

Now an updated version is sitting in the “Pre-Post” and I’m feeling pretty good about it.

That’s one of the beautiful things about this competition. We are competing, yes, but we’re also a team. Given the short turnaround time involved in these posts (less than a week between rough draft and publication, generally), we rely heavily on each other to help check for errors and make our posts the best they can be. In fact, I’m noticing a trend that those who are getting pre-posts up early and getting feedback and acting on some of that feedback are doing better when the vote comes around as opposed to those who are posting later and missing out on vital feedback (or disregarding feedback all together).

I’m going to be very sad when this competition ends, because it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learned a lot about writing, revision, and critiquing. I’m hoping I can keep in touch with the members of the cast after Mossflower Odyssey III ends, because there are a few of them who I’d love their thoughts on the work I’ve got that’s soon to be published.

Have you been reading The Lost Treasure of Captain Blade? Got a favorite character? Or have you ever participated in a story project like this? Let me know in the comments!

The Emotion Thesaurus

For a while now, I’ve been considering doing a regular addition to my blog on various ‘tools’ I have found helpful in my writing journey. Yesterday I got a message from a former student of mine, asking for writing advice. Sure, there’s an abundance of stuff out there already, but you never know when you might learn something new from someone. And sometimes you just have to hear something in a different way. Entrepreneur J.R. Ridinger has a favorite saying that you have to hear something seven times, in seven different ways, from seven different people before it finally clicks.

So this is going to be the first installment of my look on “Writing Tools.” Today I’m going to talk about one of my new favorites, which has been getting a LOT of use thanks to Mossflower Odyssey III: The Lost Treasure of Captain Blade.

The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

I found The Emotion Thesaurus before it was an actual book. The authors have a blog called Writers Helping Writers, which was The Bookshelf Muse at the time. One thing they do on a weekly basis is add a new entry to one of their descriptive thesauruses. Once they completed the entries for The Emotion Thesaurus, they pulled it off their site and turned it into a fantastic book. Other thesauruses are still available on Writers Helping Writers, such as a Physical Attribute Thesaurus, a Setting Thesaurus, and the current Emotional Wounds Thesaurus, which gets a new addition every week.

Now, The Emotion Thesaurus is a fantastic tool for writers to help with showing rather than telling. For example, the current post I’m working on for Redwall Survivor had my character feeling disgust at a situation (shh, Spoilers!). But instead of writing that this character felt disgusted, I flipped open the thesaurus to “Disgust”.


Each entry in the Thesaurus gives you first a Definition of the emotion. For the section I was working on, I chose the Physical Signals wrinkling one’s nose, flinching, and averting one’s gaze. I made use of some Internal Sensations, like nausea or a heaving stomach. For Mental Responses, I was able to use feeling unclean. I even found a way to stick in Cues of Acute or Long-Term Disgust, one of which was hyper-protectiveness of personal space. You’re also given a choice of additional emotions it May Escalate To and Cues of Suppressed Disgust, which I personally didn’t need to use for my current chapter, though those may come into play in my next post.

Each emotion in The Emotion Thesaurus takes two pages of the book. You have 75 emotions, from Amusement to Gratitude to Loneliness to Worry. Depending on the personality of your character, you can find all sorts of responses. I knew my Redwall Survivor character wouldn’t be dry washing their hands, but I did show him/her averting their gaze and refusing to look at the situation.

I especially find this book helpful in spicing up sections of dialogue, because I can look through all of the emotions related to the scene and weave them in with the dialogue, rather than lots of “he said/she said.”

Have you ever used The Emotion Thesaurus?